The Trump administration has carried out nearly 10,000 summary deportations or “expulsions” since March 21, using emergency public health measures during the coronavirus outbreak that have given U.S. Customs and Border Protection broad authority to bypass immigration laws, CBP officials said Thursday.
The measures have allowed the agency to quickly turn away most unauthorized migrants — sending them back across the U.S.-Mexico border. The moves have dramatically slashed the number of detainees held in border stations, where they fear the coronavirus could spread, the officials said. CBP has fewer than 100 detainees in custody, down from nearly 20,000 at this time last year during the border crisis, officials said.
Since the implementation of the rapid expulsions, migration levels have fallen to near their lowest point in decades, with unlawful border crossings down 56 percent, said acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan. He also acknowledged that the United States has all but closed its borders to asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution, including those who attempt to enter legally at U.S. ports of entry.
“Those who are undocumented or don’t have documents or authorization are turned away,” Morgan said.
Democratic lawmakers have accused the administration of defying U.S. laws and exceeding the authority of the coronavirus public health emergency order, but Morgan defended the emergency measures as a necessary step to stop the spread of the disease.